No Bootstrap Theology

“And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

Luke 15:20 ESV

After the prodigal son comes to himself in Luke 15:17, he heads home to beg his father to forgive him and take him back and hire him as a servant. That’s when love moved first.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt com- passion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

The picture is that of a loving father who not only didn’t turn away from his wayward son but also didn’t even pause to ask a word about where the son had been or what he had done. He simply fell on his neck and kissed him.


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His boy was home.

Even when the prodigal wanted to go home, it never entered his mind that he would be anything more than slave. That’s strange. Did his dad ever do anything to communicate that message? Certainly not, but the prodigal knew what he deserved and knew what he probably would do if the roles were reversed:

“Well, if I were dad I tell you what I’d do. I’d tell my son, ‘You get off my property, and maybe, just maybe, you can hang around outside of the gate for a few weeks. I’ll let you know if I’m going to let you in.’”

We think the same way. We assume God is like us. We assume God loves like we love. We assume his anger is like ours. We assume his patience is like ours, and no one is more dangerous than a Christian who’s right. We have power when we’re right, and we fantasize of showing people exactly who we’d be if we were in control. We would rain down fire, and people who wronged us would be toast.

The prodigal based his picture of the father upon what he knew he deserved and what he would do if he were the authority. He didn’t see any way back to the father because the father owed him nothing. The son already had taken everything coming to him after his dad liquidated assets. He even may have put his dad in debt just to go off and do his thing. He figured his father could never forgive him and take him back without severe retribution.

When you’re not in the Word for yourself, you have to figure out God by yourself. In my darkest times, I thought, “There’s no way to get back to him. I’ve already done everything I ever learned you’re not supposed to do. It just doesn’t seem like there’s a way.”

And that’s when the hopelessness came.

In such moments, we have to remember the runaway’s father. When the prodigal was a long way off, the father came running. It was socially unacceptable and unmanly for men to run in Palestine. The father’s actions would’ve left Jesus’ hearers stunned and even offended as he told this story.

But love doesn’t care. Love always moves first.


Discussion Questions

Have you ever been so far away from God that you felt he could never welcome you back? As you reflect on the actions of the father in the story of the prodigal son, do you remember the time you tasted God’s forgiveness and felt his grace wash over you? What similarities do you see between your story and that of the prodigal son?

Are you withholding forgiveness and grace from someone? Knowing God’s Word says we are to forgive others even as we are forgiven, how should you respond toward the person and circumstances the Holy Spirit has brought to your mind in these moments?

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    Jimmy
    Jimmy
    November 13, 2020 5:11 am

    I remember the day I realized I thought I was the other brother. But we are all the prodigal brother. We have all sinned. Trouble is in many way we see ourselves as the brother who thinks he has done no wrong.

    Sharon Coley
    Sharon Coley
    November 13, 2020 12:26 pm

    I’m a 65 year old grandma with 2 GRANDKIDS boy 8, girl 6, it’s not easy but I refuse to give up at times I get so overwhelmed I feel bad about myself. I LOVE the LORD with all my HEART and SOUL. I feel like HE’S so far away, and know at the same time HE’S with me feeling that I have disappointed HIM. PLEASE pray 🙏 for us😢😪 TY

    Andre Lefebvre
    Andre Lefebvre
    Reply to  Sharon Coley
    November 14, 2020 1:53 am

    Hi Sharon. You don’t need to feel sorry for yourself. God is with you, in your heart. He is never far away. He loves you always. He will never leave you, nor forsake you. The same way you love your children and grandchildren. Remember, God is love. You will never disappoint Him.

    Last edited 3 months ago by Andre Lefebvre
    vikkilyn rolfs
    vikkilyn rolfs
    November 13, 2020 2:48 pm

    This is sooooo good. It’s only the second time I have heard a Pastor talk about the other brother..The first time was with the great Alan Redpath..Both these messages resonated with me…thank you…

    Corrine
    Corrine
    November 18, 2020 6:24 am

    I am loving this group wish it would continue on. Thank you for opening my eyes in every session. God bless you.

    Calpal
    Calpal
    November 22, 2020 8:36 am

    First time I’ve heard anything on the other brother. And boy did THAT hit home. Feeling that resentment. That anger. That hurt. Watching everyone do as they please, and myself trying to do “the right thing” and yet they were getting everything. I burst into tears when you spoke of “the other brother” and his heart…..THAT was me. Sin Envy. Watching so many people doing wrong and yet everything they touch seemed to turn to “gold”. My grandmothers perspective was “well, they are getting their reward here on earth”…. I’ve often felt in my head “I’m too far gone for… Read more »

    Charlie
    Charlie
    November 16, 2020 6:29 am

    It’s important to remember to take our own advice. You cannot change the person using their thumbs on social media. You have absolutely no control over anyone else but yourself. So, you have to ask yourself why you are so upset over what they are posting on social media. If it isn’t true, who cares? If it is true, why are you keeping secrets? Love these videos, but this one is manipulative. The person using their thumbs on social media would never have gone to social media had they been heard in the first place. It’s time to stop trying… Read more »

    pat corbin
    pat corbin
    November 18, 2020 7:36 am

    The 1st thing Mark said is so true! We need to be in the Word for ourselves. I know if i had not stayed there the past 30yrs, I know I would not have this kind of peace, this assurance i am who God says I am, and love for others as i do. I been prodigal once or twice but i always return! I am so in love with Jesus!

    Carol R Luther
    Carol R Luther
    November 18, 2020 9:06 am

    Wow!! When you talked about the prodigal son and that were two son, I never looked at it that way.. Made so much since.. I have read this many times but you talked about the other brother.. I’ve never had the story told that way.. Thank you..

    Kenny Wayne
    November 20, 2020 6:05 am

    Yes! “Why can’t the world just….” isn’t it funny how when you are trying to rescue the world with your ‘insight’, God can reveal something to you about yourself… that is even more insightful?

    Betsi Vesser
    Betsi Vesser
    November 20, 2020 8:06 am

    Our pastor preached on the two prodigal sons recently and it made a lot of sense. We are always quick to blame someone else. My dad used to say when you point a finger at someone else, there are 4 fingers still pointing back at you. Our sins are our own. We owe the Father our repentance and our love. As an aside, I disagree with the person who said this lesson is manipulative. I think social media is one of the greatest harms and failings in our society, because it allows us to hide behind a screen and say… Read more »

    Michael
    Michael
    November 25, 2020 8:10 am

    Took me along time to realize I can’t earn grace. But grace leads me to repentance

    CPR plus
    CPR plus
    November 25, 2020 9:21 am

    Forgiveness is free but trust is EARNED. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. God’s love is unconditional. He loves us despite our sin but the way He shows that love isn’t always like the prodigal son.There is no.forgiveness for blaspheming the Holy Spirit. As well there is no reconciliation. I can forgive another but reconciliation is not always in my best interest. God says we are to love ourselves as well as our neighbor. This is something I feel is SOOO missing from Christian messengers. We need to know we are important and forgiveness of another doesn’t include… Read more »

    Gail
    Gail
    November 30, 2020 5:44 am

    Our church did several small groups using the book The Prodigal God. At first you think that is an odd title, but I learned that the son who stayed was a prodigal too.

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